In fact, employment lawyer Daniel Handman says “Social media policies are now just as necessary for employers as discrimination, leave, and vacation policies.”
Social media in the workplace is here to stay, so businesses must establish social media guidelines for employees that not only encourage workers to post, but also empower them to be company ambassadors.
Why You Need Social Media Rules for Employees
Today, businesses understand that social media is more of an advantage than a liability.
But while workers at all levels of an organization should be encouraged to post and share about their employer, companies should still have social media rules for employees in place.
Makes employees more likely to post.
One important reason to create simple social media guidelines for employees is because they can actually empower people to post about their company online.
A clear policy that outlines how social media can be used will dispel some of the anxiety people may have about posting. It’s not uncommon for employees to worry about using social media — or even avoid it completely — out of fear their job could be on the line.
Providing rules and recommendations can help alleviate these concerns.
Protects the company.
Social media rules for employees offer a level of protection for the organization because they outline what should and shouldn’t be shared on social media.
These guidelines also provide details on how employees should conduct themselves online, and they explain the consequences that will occur if an employee doesn’t abide by the company’s policy.
Primes your employee advocacy program for success.
A unique challenge of employee advocacy is that organizations want employees to share news, updates, and insights about the company — but they don’t want workers to share everything.
For example, confidential data or damaging or negative information. (That’s why companies like American Family Insurance take advantage of EveryoneSocial’s disclosure feature that adds required disclosures or hashtags.)
However, employees’ social media accounts are theirs alone. Workers don’t want to be told what they can and can’t say, so strict requirements about what to post can backfire and prevent your employee advocacy efforts from gaining traction.
That’s why providing social media rules for employees that encourage people to share authentically while guiding them to align posts with company values is key.
This kind of company policy fosters an environment where social media in the workplace bolsters employee advocacy efforts.
Tips for Creating Effective Social Media Rules for Employees
There are numerous things to consider when establishing guidelines on how employees should use social media, and your company’s policy may differ based on its industry, brand image, organization size, and more.
But whether your organization is new to social media or already an employee advocacy pro, these tips will help you develop social guidelines for employees that benefit both them and the company.
Explain what the rules are for.
Begin by communicating that this policy exists to protect both employees and the organization itself.
You can also highlight why social media in the workplace is important and how employees can help the brand communicate company values online as Coca-Cola does in its social media principles document.
If you have an employee advocacy program in place, it can also be useful to get people more personally invested by explaining how these guidelines can help them develop their own personal brand.
Set the tone.
Be clear and straightforward throughout the document, and keep it conversational. Try to avoid jargon that may confuse less social-savvy users.
The policy is comprehensive but also a fun read because it uses humorous examples to illustrate key points.
For example, Monzo outlines which platforms its policy applies to (“blogs, microblogs, social/professional networks, forums, and image-sharing platforms” where employees post as themselves), while assuring workers that their anonymously penned Harry Potter fanfic won’t violate any company rules.
Avoid excessive ‘don’ts.’
Resist the temptation to create a long list of things employees shouldn’t do on social media.
You shouldn’t have to instruct employees not to share confidential company information or specifically tell them not to make offensive comments to customers, for example.
Instead, state that the company’s code of conduct also applies to online behavior and remind them that their professional brand is tied to their personal brand.
Advise workers to use common sense as Intel does in its social media guidelines for employees.
And instruct workers that If they’re not sure if it’s okay to share certain content, it’s best to check with the organization’s social media team — or simply not post it at all.
Remind employees that the Internet has a long life.
On a similar note, it’s important to make sure employees understand that once something is posted online, it could potentially live forever.
Even if that tweet is deleted or that embarrassing photo from the company holiday party is removed, it’s likely that someone has retweeted it or taken a screenshot.
Here’s how Dell addresses this in its social guidelines:
“If you mistakenly post something on a social media platform, it will be hard to delete completely. So be sure you’re only posting content you would feel comfortable showing up in your boss’ inbox, your coworker’s Twitter or Instagram feed, or the front page of a major news site.”
You can even share some social media horror stories to drive the point home.
Take a team approach.
You’ve made efforts to hire the best possible people to represent your company, so encourage employees to identify themselves as members of your team in their social profiles.
Ask them to share company news and talk about their experiences at work, and assure them that you want to highlight them and share their stories as well.
An employee advocacy platform like EveryoneSocial makes it easy for organizations to keep people informed about company updates, blog posts, media mentions, and more, such as in the example above.
Such a platform also makes employees more likely to share this information and helps them craft engaging and effective messaging.
Explain the difference between speaking about the company and on behalf of the company.
Be clear that you want people to post and share about their employer on social media, but you don’t want them to actually act as spokesperson for the company (unless, of course, that’s their job).
Instruct them not to respond to customer complaints or negative comments about the business, its products, or its competitors. Instead, direct them to inform the social media manager about such occurrences.
Provide social media best practices.
Not every employee is comfortable using social media or knows how to use it effectively, so outline the basics.
Instruct them to abide by social media etiquette, only share what’s theirs, and avoid posting copyrighted material. As GAP states in its social policy, “Respect other people’s stuff. Just because something’s online doesn’t mean it’s OK to copy it.”
Also, explain the importance of using a personal photo of themselves in their profiles and being authentic in their engagements with others. Encourage employees to have fun, experiment with social platforms’ various features, and expand their personal networks.
You can even provide guidance to employees on how to build their brand and grow their audience, and you can make suggestions of where they can get additional social media training.
Communicate that the company is here to help.
If an employee has a question about social media, provide them with directions on who to contact.
Also, acknowledge that mistakes happen and the organization is available to help, just like Starbucks does in part of its social media policy featured above.
Outline the consequences of violating the policy.
Make it clear that there are serious repercussions if people don’t abide by the rules set forth in your social media policy.
Communicate that the employee could lose their job, the company could lose customers, and there could even be legal ramifications like Best Buy does in its social media guidelines for employees.
Empower Employees and Grow Your Network with EveryoneSocial
Developing a social media policy for employees is only the first step in transforming your employees into true company ambassadors.
Plus, your future hires, potential customers and more are interacting on social media and turning to it for information about your business.